Today I thought I’d share a question and my response from the Life Well Lived Getting Organized Panel.

First, the Question: What is your best tip for hosting a gathering, get-together or party that is enjoyable and stress-free for both the host and the guests?

Ahhh isn’t this just an all-time question? I think one of the key things for me is taking care of all (or as much as possible) of the prep work ahead of time. If I leave everything to do for just before people arrive, then I’m doomed to become stressed and potentially forget something.

I start by taking the time to write everything I need down – making my shopping list. It really stinks to be in the middle of preparing a dish and realize you forgot to get one ingredient!

Then I start my advance preparations including cutting vegetables, preparing dips, making desserts and even mixing pitchers of drinks. All this can be done before the actual party day.

As an example, every year we’ve been having an annual Soup, Chili & Chowder party in early December. This event coincides with the tree lighting ceremony that takes place in our town on the first Friday night of December. This party has turned out to be one of the most enjoyable ones we throw because it’s so laid back, casual and everyone is so cheerful with the approaching holidays.

This past year I made 2 soups, 2 chowders and 1 crockpot full of my vegan chili.

I usually start preparing the soups and chowders a couple of days ahead of time. First, making sure I have all my ingredients ready, then I can begin getting all the chopping completed – even if it means soaking the veggies in water to keep them fresh. Nothing wrong with that I say.

The day before, I get all the soups and chowders ready – as in ready to eat if we were so inclined. That way, the day of the party all I have to do is start my vegan chili in the crockpot in the morning before I head to work. Then during the day, my hubby can head to the bakery to pick up loaves of fresh crunchy bread (french, sourdough, etc). After work, I come home put all the pots of soup and chowder onto the stove to warm them up, place out the bowls and spoons and I’m pretty much ready to go.

The evening is super casual with people coming and going as they please. They fill their bowls with their choice of delight and then enjoy the warmth they provide on what is usually a chilly evening.

Most people make the rounds and try all the soups I’ve prepared.

Because there isn’t a set “eating time”, and since people come and go depending on how long they stay at the town holiday event, I get lots of time to visit with everyone as they arrive.

I really look forward to this event each year.

So, what tips do you have for keeping a party enjoyable and stress-free?

Please leave a comment below and also visit the main Stress-Free Entertaining post on for more ideas and to share yours.

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Happy Entertaining everyone!